Craig Berube

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Marc Savard joins Blues as assistant coach

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Craig Berube will have a new face next to him on the St. Louis Blues’ bench this coming season. Longtime NHLer Marc Savard has been hired as an assistant coach to work mainly on the power play.

“I was fortunate to play with Marc during my career and I’m very familiar with his passion and acumen for the game,” said Berube, who played two seasons in Calgary with Savard. “He was a tremendous player and possesses an elite offensive mind. His addition to our staff will be a great benefit to our players and the organization.”

Savard, 42, last played in the NHL in 2010 as concussions ended his playing career. He officially retired in Jan. 2018 and made it known that in his post-playing days he wanted to get into the coaching world. He had been involved in coaching his sons in Triple A hockey, but landing a gig in junior or pro hockey was his goal. After spending the 2018-19 season working for Sportsnet on television and radio, he’ll be behind the bench with the defending Stanley Cup champions.

[Savard ready to take coaching experience to the next level]

Speaking to NBC Sports after his retirement announcement last year, Savard pointed to former Atlanta Thrashers head coach Bob Hartley as a big influence on his coaching spirit.

“He really gave me the opportunity to be the best I could be,” Savard said. “The first day he came in we had a meeting and he told me flat out that he was going to give me a great opportunity. Everything worked out excellent from there and I owe a lot to him.”

When he wasn’t working on TV or radio, Savard took up a side project showing fans the tape jobs of various NHL players on his YouTube channel, which has nearly 15,000 subscribers. No word yet if that will continue, but if it does he certainly won’t be short on acquiring sticks to use to show viewers.

Savard played 807 NHL games with the Flames, Thrashers, New York Rangers, and Boston Bruins. He finished with 207 goals, 706 points and one Stanley Cup ring.

MORE: Marc Savard and the art of taping your hockey stick

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Stanley Cup Tracker: Cup heads to the Canadian prairies

Associated Press

The PHT Stanley Cup tracker will keep tabs on how the St. Louis Blues spend their summer celebrating.

We’re back once again and on the trail of the Stanley Cup, which is traveling around the world this summer in the hands of the St. Louis Blues.

According to the Blues, the Cup will travel nearly 29,000 miles across three continents and five countries over the next two months.

This week, the Cup was in Western Canada, visiting head coach Craig Berube’s’ quaint hometown in Alberta and in Regina, where Brayden Schenn and Co. took the mug to Mosaic Stadium, the home of the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Cup made its way to Busch Stadium two weeks ago as several of the Blues players hoisted it in front of thousands of St. Louis Cardinals fans.

And here’s Conn Smythe winner Ryan O'Reilly throwing out the game’s first pitch.

Brayden Schenn got his day with the Cup in Saskatoon on Friday and took it right to the place where his father has worked for 28 years as a firefighter.

Schenn was seen wearing a firefighter helmet during the Blues’ parade with the Cup back in June.

“You always think if I win the Cup, you put the thoughts in your head of what I would do with it,” Schenn told the team’s website. “My dad is a firefighter, so this was important to me. I’m trying to do my best sharing it with a lot of people today.”

He also took it Royal University Hospital where he met with sick children, including 16-year-old John Bossaer.

The Cup then headed a few hours south, where Tyler Bozak and Jaden Schwartz shared their day with the Cup with the city of Regina on Saturday.

The duo planted a Blues flag on the Saskatchewan Legislative Building.

They then headed to where people where melons on their heads: Mosaic Stadium.

There, they paraded the trophy in front of thousands of Saskatchewan Roughriders fans who had assembled for the Canadian Football League’s game against the Calgary Stampeders. There wasn’t much to cheer for during the football game for fans — the Roughriders lost 37-10 — but Bozak and Schwartz, along with Schenn, got the crowd into a frenzy.

Earlier in the week, the Cup was a province over in Alberta.

Craig Berube, fresh off a three-year extension as bench boss with the Blues, took the Cup back to his hometown of Calahoo, Alta.

It’s not a big place — the thriving metropolis boasts a population of just 85 — but they were all out to congratulate Berube.

“We all grew up here,” Berube told the team’s website. “My dad and brothers lived on this farm or just down the road. We were grain farmers, cattle farmers, we had it all here, that’s how we grew up. It’s changed now, but still my dad lives here with his brothers and my uncle built a 9-hole golf course on the property over there.

“Every summer I come back once or twice, and when we play Edmonton I come back and visit if I have the chance. But this is the most special trip so far for me.”

His mother, meanwhile, was just as thrilled.

“I never dreamt it. Unreal,” said Ramona Berube, Craig’s mother. “I never thought of something like this (happening). It’s just great for everybody who was down at the arena to see it. You can see how much it means to everybody.”

Colton Parayko, meanwhile, got his day with the Cup in St. Alberta, a city northwest of Edmonton.

Parayko’s day also included an emotional moment as he, along with his grandfather and family, toasted his grandma, who died last November after a battle with cancer.

According to Parayko, a deal was made between grandmother and grandson that if the latter made the NHL one day, the former would take a shot of peach schnapps at her home in St. Albert any time he scored.

With her passing, the family honored the tradition on Wednesday.

“She was a special girl and she means a lot to me and my whole family,” Parayko said. “With me not being in St. Albert here and playing in St. Louis, the shots were a way we could frequently connect (during hockey season). In the summer when I came home, she begged me to score a few extra ones for her.”

“We had such a wonderful life together. I wish she was here to see this.”

Meanwhile, the mayor of Boston, Martin Walsh, made a nice gesture to Laila Anderson this week, congratulating her and the Blues for their Stanley Cup win.

“Dear Laila – We have never met, so let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Marty and I am a passionate, lifelong Boston Bruins fan,” Walsh wrote. “I am writing to you because a couple of weeks ago, I was at home, watching pre-game coverage of game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, when I saw a story about you, your love of the St. Louis Blues, how the Blues players’ love you in return, and how you inspried an entire city and fan base. After watching the segment, I turned to my partner, Lorrie, and said, ‘This stinks! I love the Bruins and I want them to win! … But I really want Laila to win, too!’

“I don’t know if you or your family plan to come back to Boston anytime soon, but if you should return please let me know as I would be very glad to meet you and your family and show you some more of Boston. I certainly can’t promise you a cooler experience than standing on the Garden ice kissing the Stanley Cup, but Boston’s a great city and would love to have you back.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

For Berube, accountability led to a Stanley Cup for Blues

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Blues general manager Doug Armstrong had his staff produce a list of coaching candidates after firing Mike Yeo in November. He hasn’t looked at it since January.

The Stanley Cup champions formally announced a three-year contract extension for coach Craig Berube on Wednesday, officially taking the interim tag off. Maybe.

”He’s going to stay as an interim for the next three years because we’ve had some success with that,” Armstrong quipped.

Berube took over for Yeo in late November and led the Blues to one of the most dramatic turnarounds in NHL history, culminating with the first NHL championship in the franchise’s 52-year history. The Blues went 38-19-6 during the regular season under Berube, climbing from dead last in the league standings in early January to third place in the Central Division. The Blues were one of only seven teams to make the postseason after being last in the league in points that late in the season – and they are the only team to win a playoff series after climbing out of that hole, let alone win it all.

The 53-year-old Berube, a former NHL enforcer from a tiny hamlet in Alberta, Canada, won over the team by holding everyone accountable, including himself.

”Whether it’s through ice time, where you fit in in the lineup on a nightly basis,” Berube said. ”It’s really conversations with the players more than anything. It’s just putting the team-first mindset and drilling it into the team. That’s really, basically it. It takes a lot of work, it’s every day, but it’s getting that team-first mindset. Once we started to get that and once I started to see guys fitting in certain areas, we were playing pretty good hockey, we just weren’t getting the wins and that started to come.”

Armstrong told Berube that he would be the head coach in the final week of the regular season, but both sides agreed to hold off on negotiations until after the final game. That turned out to be a Game 7 win in the final last week. Financial terms were not disclosed.

”In any negotiation you walk in hoping it’s going to go quickly and this one did go relatively quickly, but you can get some bumps on the road, some differing opinions and I certainly didn’t want that walking into game two, or three or four of a playoff series,” Armstrong said. ”We wanted his mind focused on the task.”

Last fall, Berube immediately took down the standings in the locker room when he took over. It was one of the many moves that convinced Armstrong to ditch that list of coaching candidates.

”I think when you come in in October and you look at the standings, you’re excited that you’re at the top and then as you’re going lower and lower and lower, it gets depressing coming in on a Tuesday morning and looking up at 28 teams ahead of you,” Armstrong said. ”I thought it was a great idea to take those down. And really what he stressed to everyone in our group is, ‘Let’s live in the moment. You’re not going to change yesterday and tomorrow is going to come soon enough, let’s work on today.”’

That mindset served the Blues well, especially in the postseason where nothing came easy.

After winning the first two games on the road in the opening round against Winnipeg, St. Louis dropped the next two at home. The Blues went just 6-7 on Enterprise Center ice in the postseason, including losing Game 6 with a chance to win the Cup against Boston.

St. Louis could have folded after Game 3 in the third round after losing to the San Jose Sharks in overtime on a goal scored directly off of an illegal hand pass that wasn’t caught by the officials. Instead, taking their cue from Berube, the Blues won the next three games to close out the series.

”I thought Craig and his staff did a fabulous job of celebrating the victories through the end of that evening and then the next day coming back to work,” Armstrong said. ”We didn’t get hung up on a bad loss or too high on a win. When you get into the playoffs, I thought that was a huge advantage for our team.”

That mentality did not happen overnight.

”You’ve got to push it and prod and do all kinds of things to get everybody on the same page and to buy in, it takes a little time,” Berube said. ”They did a great job, our players. They wanted to be a good team and that obviously happened and they became a good team.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Blues fans can relax: Berube signs three-year contract

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As silly as it seemed to worry about Craig Berube not being the St. Louis Blues’ head coach after the team won its first ever Stanley Cup, there were those who were sweating the lack of an announcement nonetheless.

After all, we’ve seen some instances in which a coach wins it all, only to change locales. In fact, it just happened with the coach before Berube, as the Washington Capitals didn’t bring back Barry Trotz after winning the 2018 Stanley Cup, only for Trotz to win the Jack Adams with the resurgent New York Islanders. (Also: Mike Keenan.)

With Trotz, there was a succession plan already in place in Washington, so they move on with Todd Reirden. The Blues clearly weren’t penciling in Berube as a sure-thing, either, what with Berube being a mid-season replacement for Mike Yeo, and Berube carrying the “interim” title for a curious amount of time.

Well, any mild concerns were put to rest, anyway, on Tuesday. The Blues announced that Berube has been signed to a three-year contract.

[Berube helped Blues find identity after early-season struggle]

It’s slightly disappointing that the money details haven’t leaked (yet?), as it would be intriguing to find out what Berube is getting paid. As much as winning it all drives up your bargaining power, there’s also not the greatest market for coaching jobs by late June, and Berube is likely relieved to not only coach a clearly talented team, but also to find a stable position.

(Stable by the almost inherently unstable standards of coaching jobs in the NHL, at least.)

The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford tracked down some quotes on the re-upping, including from Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

It’s been quite the whirlwind year for Berube. He took over for Yeo, saw the ascent of Jordan Binnington, earned a Jack Adams nomination, and then made some deft moves in helping the Blues win the Stanley Cup. Berube’s three-year extension is well-earned, and while he likely isn’t losing any sleep over it, you could very well argue that his Jack Adams case was even better than that of Trotz.

With this question answered, we can move on to the next one: can Berube and the Blues back this all with a strong encore?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Berube helped Blues find identity after early-season struggle

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BOSTON — During his press conference following the firing of Mike Yeo, St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong stated that he was ready to do an off-season search for a new head coach, and that that search would take him far and wide. He would explore all levels of hockey — college, junior, the AHL, Europe — to find a successor and get the franchise back on track.

At that same press conference, interim head coach Craig Berube said he saw a team that needed a boost of confidence. After all, he’d been an associate coach for Yeo and been on the bench for the first month and a half of the 2018-19 NHL season, a start that saw the Blues fall down the Western Conference standings and into a hole seemingly too vast to dig out from.

On the 205th night since that November press conference, the Blues celebrated as Stanley Cup champions for the first time in franchise history. A team that was in need of a kick received it when Berube took over. The players bought into his message at a time when they needed to the most.

“He has conviction when he speaks,” said NBC’s Brian Boucher about Berube, his former NHL teammate and head coach. “If he says something, he’s thought about it and when he believes in something, you believe him.”

[RELATED: Blues win first Stanley Cup]

When Armstrong decided to make the coaching change he turned to Berube because of his experience. Of the remaining assistants, he had the most experience as an NHL head coach and the GM was confident he could keep the ship steady until a full-time replacement could be found.

“He answered the bell,” said Armstrong.

Berube kept the Blues afloat and slowly started to make progress with his players, with the results showing on the ice. He took the bond that he created as an associate coach and kept it strong when he took over for Yeo. His message resonated with his players at a time when they were feeling lost, and the losses piling up. 

“It was really tough at the start,” said Ryan O'Reilly, who was named winner of the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy. “It was tough. We were all questioning each other and frustrated. We kept working, though. We had great leadership at all sorts of different times [stressing] to keep working and eventually things started to click. Chief got us to just get out there and play hard, be hard on every puck and help us find our identity.”

The Blues’ biggest strength in Berube’s eyes? They trusted the guy next to them on the bench — a trait that he had to instill into his group.

“They put the team first,” said Berube, who’s now the seventh coach to win the Stanley Cup after taking over midseason. “That’s been a message for quite sometime. They’ve done a real good job of that, the players. They believe in it. Once they got that message they started playing mid-December, we started to really pull it together.”

Now the long journey is complete and the Blues are Stanley Cup champions. Berube is still technically the team’s “interim” head coach, but that title will be getting an upgrade very soon.

MORE BLUES STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
Video: Blues hoist Stanley Cup
Blues fan Laila Anderson gets moment with Stanley Cup
Ryan O’Reilly wins Conn Smythe Trophy
Blues latest team erased from Stanley Cup drought list

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.